Gardening Matters

I went by the Ace Hardware store in Dunwoody Village the other day to pick up some bird seed. On my way out I noticed they were selling copies of 2017 The Old Farmer’s Almanac. I buy a copy of this helpful and interesting publication every year about this time. It’s one of my favorite publications.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac has been continuously published for 225 years. While it initially was focused on Boston and New England information, it has since grown to include data for the entire U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii. And what an amazing range of information it includes! Recipes, folk medicine, astrology, astronomy, humor, weather forecasts for the coming year, American history, gestation and mating tables, dog training, and a range of advertisements that will boggle your mind, just to name a few topics.

Almanacs were first developed in the 1700s as an aid to farmers regarding weather and astrological data such as times of sunrise, sunset, moon rise, etc. As time passed additional topics such as recipes, astrology, animal husbandry and gardening information became part of the standard fare. Now The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a cornucopia of useful information, trivia, odd factoids and advertisements ranging from love potions and psychic hotlines to heavy duty garden equipment and miracle fertilizer products.

It even comes with a small hole punched all the way through the pages in the corner so that the Almanac can be hung from a nail in the family’s two-holer out back.

The folks at the Almanac take their weather prognostications quite seriously. As they explain on page 217, “[We] derive our weather forecasts from a secret formula that was devised by the founder of the Almanac, Robert B. Thomas, in 1792.

Thomas believed that weather on Earth was influenced by sunspots, which are magnetic storms on the surface of the Sun.”

To the data involved in the secret formula they add information from the modern sciences of climatology and meteorology.

The publishers of the Almanac are not foolish enough to claim that their weather forecasts are 100 percent accurate, but they do claim that, “our results are almost always very close to our traditional claim of 80 percent.” That’s not too shabby when you consider that they are forecasting for the entire U.S. and for the entire year-to-come.

Early in my gardening career I used The Old Farmer’s Almanac to help me do some ‘planting by the signs.’ This is a very old folk custom of timing one’s planting according to the occurrence of various astronomical and astrological l signs. The simplest method of planting by the signs is to plant according to the phases of the moon. When the moon is waxing (growing from a New Moon to a Full Moon) you plant annual flowers and vegetables that bear fruit above ground. When the moon is waning (going from Full Moon to New Moon) you plant flowering bulbs, biennial and perennial flowers, and vegetables that bear fruit below ground. The Almanac has handily provided charts of these moon phases for 2017 and the most propitious dates for planting.

Featured news articles this year include pieces on attracting pollinators, saving seeds, heirloom veggies, “dry farming” tomatoes and using cover crops during winter.

The calendar section gives you pages full of far more than just the days of the week. The basic calendar is supplemented by historical items, sunrise/sunset, moonrise/moonset, tide information, celestial events, saint’s days, holidays, religious feasts, and poems, proverbs and adages.

This year the Almanac also has a handy article and map of the full solar eclipse coming across the U.S., including Georgia, in August 2017.

I’m sure that not every gardener wants to do their planting by the moon phases, or needs to know when the feast of St. Ethelburga-the-Virgin is scheduled, but there’s a lot of information in The Old Farmer’s Almanac that I’m sure will be both helpful and entertaining to all. Stop by Ace Hardware and pick up a copy.

Jeff Coghill has been gardening in DeKalb County for more than 35 years and has probably killed at least one of each kind of plant he has tried before getting another one to thrive. He is a gardening volunteer at the Dunwoody Nature Center and works closely with members of the DeKalb Master Gardeners group. dunwoodygardener@

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